Starry skies under scrutiny

Clear, starry nights should be one of the few free guarantees left in life, but, due to increasing light pollution, they’re not afforded to many parts of Britain any more. To combat the problem, the CPRE has joined forces with the British Astro-nomical Association’s Campaign for Clear Skies for Star Count Week (from January 31), when the public will be asked to count the number of stars they can see within the easily recognisable constellation of Orion.

A CPRE survey in 2009-10 revealed that eight out of 10 people’s view of the night sky is hindered by light pollution, which disrupts wildlife, causes carbon waste and affects sleep patterns. A great deal of it-such as that from airports, transport depots and street lighting, on which councils collectively spend £532 million a year is exempt from the 2005 Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, but the CPRE can offer advice about dealing with intrusive light from other sources.

The CPRE’s Emma Marrington says: ‘We want to use this survey to convince Ministers and local councils of the need to tackle light pollution, for example, by ensuring that the correct lighting is used only where and when it is needed.’

Instructions for the star count can be read on the CPRE website from January 10 (